Staff: Greg Boucher (Writer), Justin Newberry (Lettering) & Aleksandar Bozic (Art)
Conan the Barbarian meets Gladiator, but good.
So Slave is by the same company that bought us True North. (11 reviews in and I’m already breaking my “one comic per publisher rule” eh?) Right off the bat we get a different art style. Very heavy on contrast (though that’s similar to True North). The quality is a lot higher in terms of fidelity and creativity from an artistic perspective. Some of the opening shots are composed really well.
Something that worked out REALLY well for RATO was that is an almost purely visual story. This one matches that. It has no dialogue until page 14. Gotta say, I’m a fan of the way they did this. We get a very intimate view of the hardships of all involve and I think the lack of dialogue actually added to that. It also allows us to focus on the world they are building. It seems very late Roman, but then we start seeing aliens and the like. Very nice mash up. There are spurts where there is dialogue and parts where they let the visual storytelling take over. It’s really a decent method to help manage the comic’s pacing. The visual storytelling allows them the freedom to jump hours or days, while when there is dialogue the flow of time is much more condensed.
The lettering is indistinguishable from professional work and it’s very readable. It is even fitted to the art style which utilizes a lot of line breaks. There were a FEW errors with the lettering. Sometimes they drew the speech bubbles to the edge of the page rather than to the edge of the panel, but that’s really just nitpicking.
It should be mentioned that the entire comic is done in black and white, but I don’t think it would be as successful visually if it had color. I always liked the works where there was moral grey area being employed and the art style was stark black and white with high contrast. It’s almost poetic (On page 23 this was in particularly good form as the art team employed inverted shadows to showcase a character’s silhouette.). The one issue I do have is that, while it is stunning, I don’t like the double page spread on page 28. It is a bit distracting.
The characters are well written. Quite a change between this and True North which has a lot of stock tropes. While the tropes are there, they are used better. We have the hard bitten gladiator, the softie who loves kids, the new slave, etc. These are rare archetypes to see and they twist them in ways that allow you to empathize with them. In just 40 pages we can see the seeds of legitimate character growth, which is something that is quite hard to do as smoothly as they did it. Some of the stuff you could predict, but even when you could predict it it was still enjoyable.
Something of note about the setting is that it is confident in it’s world. What I mean by that is that we don’t ever get long exposition as to what something is. In fact, I don’t recall any exposition. It just simply happens. I get that there are other species, but that’s not the focus of the story so they don’t tell me about it.
The story feels a lot like the tale of Spartacus, but different enough that it’s not a direct rip off or anything that dramatic.
So to sum it up: well written, very good art, and it has a certain charm about it. It’s worth a read if nothing else. There is a bit of a “Conan the Barbarian” in there and more than one allusion to Sparticus. I can’t help but think back to like some of the sketches from Heavy Metal now and again. Anyway, check it out.
Art: 8/10 (Good use of black & white)
Lettering: 9/10 (Publisher grade)
Plot: 10/10 (Character development and visual storytelling at it’s best)
Novelty: 7/10 (A new twist on an old thing)
PS: It’s like 70 pages for like $2… that’s awesome.